Ah spring! What a nice time of the year. The flowers are blooming, everything is green, the birds are singing, and the weather is mild. Spring vegetables are abundant and thoughts revolve around lighter foods and being outdoors. What a perfect scenario for rosé. And, just as appropriate is the arrival of the new vintage to supplement the rosés from the last few vintages that remain in our cellars. This year it is 2011. They have just started to arrive in the last several weeks. More will arrive into and through the summer. Already I have had many gorgeous wines. And, in every vintage since I first starting drinking rosés many years ago, there have been a large number of really wonderful wines. This should come as no surprise since rosés mostly originate from Mediterranean climates where the growing conditions are almost always ideal. This makes rosés one of the most consistent wines year to year. And, it is a real pleasure to not have to deal with the Ad nauseam vintage hype proclaiming “vintages of the century” every few years. Combine this with affordability and drinkability and you have a real winner. (To read my article as to why rosé is so attractive click here ). If you love rosé, you know what I mean. If you haven’t tried rosé, you really should. It’s easy. Buy them and drink them! Serve them cold. They are a great match for nearly all types of summer foods. Here are notes on a few early arriving French rosés to whet your palate. As summer arrives there will be more notes on 2011 rosés. But, don’t wait and be left behind. Start now and get in the game! It’s time for rosé!
2011 Regis Bouvier Marsannay Rosé.
Made 100% from Pinot Noir grapes this rosé is pale orange in color with a golden hue and golden edge. It has a subtle perfume with faint hints of strawberry and orange zest. With bright acidity and crispness the wine has hints of cherry fruit with a citrus undertone and a crisp finish – Highly Recommended. $22.00 Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA
Domaine De Fonsainte
The first vineyards at Domaine de Fonsainte were planted by the Romans over 2000 years ago. And the same family has been making wine here since the 17th century! That says something for staying power!! This Gris de Gris is a saignee rosé made from 70% Grenache Gris and Grenache Noir, 10% Mouvèdre, 10% Carignan, and 10% Cinsault.
2011 Domaine De Fonsainte Corbières Rosé Gris de Gris.
Tasted over several days, this wine gained complexity with each passing day. I have no doubt about the quality of this wine and its ability to last well beyond the current year if you wish to keep it. Light pink in color with a golden pale orange hue and golden edge this rosé has a stunning floral perfume intermingled with faint hints of apricot and citrus. It is elegant and rounded with a lushness that is balanced by a nice underlying acidity. The flavors offer a kaleidoscope of tastes with nectarine, grapefruit, peach and apricot laced with faint floral and spice nuances. This rosé is consistently really delicious. And, this 2011 is the best I have ever tasted from this domaine. It is also a great buy. Don’t miss it – Outstanding Plus. $14.95 Best Buy Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA
Côtes de Provence
Caves du Chateau D’Esclans
Whispering Angel is a négociant wine that is bottled at Chateau D’Esclans. The bottle is gorgeous and the wine is lovely.
2011 Caves du Chateau D’Esclans Whispering Angel Rosé Côtes de Provence.
Pale salmon pink in color with a golden hue and golden edge this rosé has a lovely floral perfume with hints of citrus and fresh herbs. It has lovely fruit and is elegant and rounded with floral nuances and a tinge of citrus – Highly Recommended. $20 Imported by Shaw-Ross International, Miramar, FL
2011 Chateau Barbeyrolles Pétale de Rosé Côtes de Provence.
This rosé is made with 45% Grenache, 17% Mouvèdre, 12% Cinsault, and 5 other grape varieties. It is pale golden amber in color with a lovely floral perfume. The wine is rounded and supple with floral nuances and a tinge of citrus – Highly Recommended. $37.99 Imported by Plume Ridge, Claremont, CA
2011 Chateau de Gassier Sables d’Azur Rosé Côtes de Provence.
Made from Syrah, Cinsault, and Grenache, this rosé is pale salmon pink in color with a faint golden edge. It has a nice floral perfume with hints of peach and is elegant and supple with very nice fruit – Highly Recommended Plus. $11.99 Best Buy Imported by Vinum International, Napa, CA
2011 Chateau La Tour de L’Eveque Régine Sumiere Pétale de Rosé Côtes de Provence.
Pale golden orange in color this rosé has a nice floral perfume with hints of peach and citrus. The wine has lovely floral tinged fruit and is elegant and finesseful with a nice underlying crispness. Balanced and tasty this is a really nice rosé – Highly Recommended Plus. $25 Imported by Imported by Plume Ridge, Claremont, CA
Chateau Routas was founded in 1992 by Philippe Bieler. In 2005 the estate was purchased by Scottish entrepreneur Sir David Murray. The 642 acre property includes 135 acres of vineyards scattered throughout the rocky, heavily-wooded terrain in this high-elevation sector of Provence.
2011 Chateau Routas Côteaux Varois en Provence.
This 2011 rosé is made from 45% Cinsault, 35% Grenache, and 20% Syrah. It is pale salmon pink in color with a faint golden hue and has a gorgeous floral perfume with hints of peach and melon. With gorgeous balance this wine has lovely floral berry tinged fruit with hints of peach and a faint underlying citrus note. It is finesseful and elegant while retaining a nice crispness – Outstanding. $11.99 Best Buy Jeff Welborn Selection, Imported by Wine Agencies Inc., Van Nuys, CA
Domaine de l’Abbaye
Today this property is owned by Franc Petit who acquired it some 45 years ago. Prior to that time it was owned by a Provencal family. The property originally belonged to the Cistercian monastery which was founded in 1098 at Citeaux in Burgundy. They expanded to Le Thoronet in Provence in the mid 12th century and built a monastery. They made wine and olive oil and produced their own food. This was intact until the late 18th century when the property was declared bankrupt and the property sold. The physical property was one of the first to be declared a historical monument and today is owned by the French government. The surrounding properties are privately owned.
The Domaine de l’Abbaye consists of over 80 acres. About 1/3 is vineyards and most of the remaining land is planted to olives. A small, historic vineyard called the Clos Beylesse consists of just under 20 acres. When Franc Petit acquired the property he began replanting the vineyards and orchards. Now in his 70s, he continues to do all the work with the assistance of a few helpers. Some 25 years ago he determined that the best grapes were coming from the Clos Beylesse which he had replanted. He therefore decided to make a wine exclusively from that plot. He chose the distinctive and beautiful cobalt blue bottle because of the proximity of the vineyard to the sea. And, although there are small amounts of two other rosés made from estate grown grapes, today most of the production comes from the Clos Beylesse which amounts to approximately 3500 cases a year. The grapes used consist of mostly Syrah and Grenache with some Cinsault. This is a consistently excellent rosé with great style and finesse.
2011 Domaine de l’Abbaye Clos Beylesse Rosé Côtes de Provence.
Pale pink color with a faint golden hue this rosé has a gorgeous perfume of peach and citrus with a faint floral melon undertone. It has gorgeous fruit with hints of peach and melon and a faint citrus tinge. Balanced and flavorful yet with great finesse this is irresistible – Outstanding. $25 Imported by Wine Emporium, Brooklyn, NY
Commanderie de la Bargemone
The commanderie was founded by the Templar knights in the 13th century. It was named Bargemone after the family that owned it for some 200 years. It passed from their hands in the 1800s and the vineyards succumbed to Phylloxera. In 1973, the property was purchased by Jean-Pierre Rozen who restored the commanderie and replanted the vineyards. After his passing in 2006 the controlling interest in the vineyards and winery was sold to the current owners, Christian and Marie Garin. Today there are more than 160 acres of vineyards and 2/3 of the production is rosé. My first experience with the wine was the 2010 vintage. The wine was outstanding. (To read that review click here)  There are also two prestige rosé bottlings “Cuvée Marina” and Cuvée Elisabeth which I have not tasted.
2011 Commanderie de la Bargemone Rosé Coteaux d’Aix en Provence.
Made with 36% Grenache, 21% Cinsault, 20% Syrah, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Carignan, and 3% Ugni Blanc, this rosé is very pale salmon pink in color with a faint golden hue. It has a gorgeous perfume of peach and citrus with a nice floral complexity. Balanced with gorgeous fruit the wine has finesse and complexity with suggestions of peach and citrus with floral melon undertones and a nice crispness on the finish – Outstanding. $17.50 Imported by Hand Picked Selections, Warrenton, VA
Luc Sorin, a native of Auxerre in the Burgudy area, took over this domaine in 1994. He has applies some Burgundian techniques to making wines, particulary the reds. This rosé is vinified and made in vats. It is made from 7 grape varieties – 40% Grenache, 15% Mourvèdre, 10% Carignan, 10% Syrah, 5% Orgi, and 5% Rolle. Anyone who can guess the grape varieties in this wine deserves a special place in rosé heaven! The name Terra Amata refers to an archeological site in open air located on the slopes of Mount Boron in Nice , at a level 26 meters above the current sea level of the Mediterranean. So it would be logical to assume that the grapes used in making this wine come from vineyards located in this area. But, no matter, the fact is that this 2011 rosé is gorgeous as was the 2010 (to read my note on that wine click here ) and is a great value.
2011 Domaine Sorin Terra Amata Rosé Côtes de Provence.
Pale salmon pink in color with a faint golden edge this wine has a gorgeous perfume with hints of floral berry fruit accented by citrus and peach and a faint kiss of spice. The flavors are gorgeous with tinges of raspberry and citrus and faint floral herbal undertones. Fruity and supple yet with a nice underlying crispness this is a terrific rose and a great value – Outstanding. $13.99 Best Buy Imported by Grape Expectations, Richmond, CA
2011 Les Quatre Tours Classique Rosé Côtes de Provence.
Made with Grenache, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine is pale salmon pink in color and has a lovely floral perfume with a hint of citrus. It is elegant and finesseful with hints of peach and citrus and a floral undertone. This is a lovely supple rosé with a nice underlying crispness – Highly Recommended. $14.99 Imported by VOS Selections, New York, NY.
2011 Domaine Saint Aix Rosé Coteaux D’Aix en Provence.
This is very appealing wine with a pale salmon pink color and a gorgeous floral perfume showing hints of peach and raspberry and a touch of citrus. It has lovely fruit and is delicate, soft, supple, and rounded. Tinges of melon and peach are intermingled with subtle hints of citrus and the finish shows a nice crispness. An exquisite rosé, this is just gorgeous – Outstanding. $14.99 Best Buy Selected by Francki Wine & Imported by Bradley Alan Imports, New York, NY.
“The Château was built in the 1500’s on the ruins of a 12th century fort. Records of winemaking in the building date back to 1550, and ruins of stone caves from that period are still visible. The Château and 37 acres of Carignan and Cinsault vines were purchased by the Durand and Valentin families in 1970. The winery was in poor condition and the families started restoration work immediately. At the same time, they planted additional acreage of Syrah and Grenache. At the time of the purchase, the Durands already had 30 acres of their own vineyards, including a small recently planted parcel of Syrah, one of the first in Languedoc. The Valentins also brought in their own 20 acres, mostly Grenache, Carignan and Cinsault. Today the Domaine consists of 128 acres of AOC vineyards, mostly in Pic Saint-Loup, with all of the Appellation wine estate-bottled at the Château.” The rosé is made with 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache, and 10% Cinsault.
2011 Chateau de Lancyre Rosé Pic Saint Loup.
Pale salmon pink in color with a golden hue this rosé has a stunning floral perfume with hints of herbs, citrus and raspberry. The fruit is gorgeous and multi faceted showing subtle hints of peach, apricot, and raspberry with hints of citrus and cherry accented by floral undertone. Exquisitely balanced, the wine has elegance and a lovely crispness – Outstanding Plus. $19.00 Best Buy Imported by Hand Picked Selections, Warrenton, VA
Chateau du Donjon
This property is situated in Minervois, one of the oldest wine producing areas in the Languedoc, and has been in the Panis family for 500 years. Guy Panis took over in 1958 following his father’s death. Prior to that time the wine was sold in bulk to négociants. Guy began domaine bottling, added more vineyards and different varietals, and modernized the winery which had been built by his grandfather. The winery is housed in the Donjon which is a 700 year old fortified Chateau with walls over 2 feet thick and a basement and sub-basement. In 1998 the business was taken over by Guy’s son, Jean. Today the estate consists of some 160 acres and all wines are estate bottled at the Chateau. The rosé is made with 40% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, and 30% Syrah.
2011 Chateau du Donjon Rosé Minervois.
Pale reddish pink in color with a golden hue this wine has a gorgeous perfume of raspberries and rose petals with faint hints of melon and citrus. A very pure and elegant rosé, it has subtle hints of raspberry and cherry with floral citrus nuances. Balanced and supple there is also a nice underlying crispness – Outstanding. $15.50 Best Buy Imported by Hand Picked Selections, Warrentown, PA
Domaine Villa des Anges
This domaine is situated on the ruins of an ancient Roman Villa in Capestang and is owned by Jacqueline Menard de Gnestous. The wines are made by Jeff Carrel.
2011 Domaine Villa des Anges Rosé Old Vines Pays d’Oc Languedoc.
This wine is made from 100% Cinsault grapes grown on vines over 35 years old. It is pale salmon pink in color with a golden hue and has a lovely floral peach tinged perfume with a kiss of citrus. A really gorgeous rosé, the wine exhibits great finesse and balance with lovely peach and melon fruit accented by a touch of citrus and a very faint tinge of spice. Don’t miss this great value – Outstanding. $11 Best Buy Imported by Hand Picked Selections, Warrentown, PA
Domaine de Reuilly
This Domaine is located in the appellation of Reuilly in the eastern Loire Valley. The area has a long history dating back to the 7th century when the king gave the land to the Royal Abbey of Saint Denis. By the late 19th century the area had been devastated by Phylloxera and most of the vineyards had been destroyed. In 1935 Camille Rousseau, the maternal grandfather of the proprietor Denis Jamain, planted his first vines here. In 1990 Denis began adding vineyards to the family holdings. Today there are a total of 43 acres of vines in the heart of the appellation. The majority is planted to Sauvignon Blanc and along with 10 acres of Pinot Noir and 5 acres of Pinot Gris. Today Reuilly is staging a comeback with a white wine that is reminiscent of Sancerre and even Chablis. But, at this domaine there is also Pinot Noir and a rosé. The Reuilly rosé is made entirely from Pinot Gris. It is a great rare and unique wine and is one of my favorite rosés year in and year out.
2011 Domaine de Reuilly Pinot Gris Rosé.
Pale golden pink in color this rosé has a stunning perfume of peach with hints of spice and citrus and a faint suggestion of lychee nut. It has a delicious balanced complexity with hints of peach and citrus intermingled with spice and mango. With great finesse and style the wine has a silky lushness with a nice underlying crispness. This 2011 is really delicious and not to be missed – Outstanding Plus. $19.95 Best Buy Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA
Les Vignerons de Tautavel Vingrau (VTV)
Les Vignerons de Tautavel Vingrau (VTV) cooperative in the village of Tautavel makes this Le Cirque rosé. The wine is named after the vast, amphitheatre-shaped bowl of vineyards stretching north towards Vingrau.
2011 Le Cirque Rosé Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes.
This wine is made with 50% Grenache Noir, 40% Mouvèdre, and 10% Grenache Gris. It is bright reddish pink in color with a golden edge and has a gorgeous perfume with musky cherry floral nuances. Light, supple and tasty, this rosé has very pure fruit and is very tasty. Hints of cherry and raspberry are balanced by a tinge of citrus. This is the quintessence of a light and finesseful fruit driven rosé. And, it is a great value – Outstanding. $13.50 Best Buy Imported by Hand Picked Selections, Warrenton, PA
Cases de Pene is a tiny village in the South of France just 30 miles north of the Spanish border. This area was ceded to France in the 17th century and is still known as French Catalonia. Penya is the Catalan spelling of the ancient chateau and village wine cooperative. The wine is made at the cooperative from grapes grown by the local vigerons – Les Vigerons de Cases de Penya. This rosé is 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah.
2011 Penya Rosé Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes.
Tasted over several days this wine was the most restrained of any of the wines tasted here. However, with each day it was better and only after 3 days did the complexity in the wine begin to appear. And, at this point, I got the wine even colder, and the colder the wine the better. It lost very little and retained a gorgeous fruitiness. So with that in mind, just remember that this wine is a great value and you can drink if over a period of several days with increasing enjoyment. So what else do you want?
The wine has a light reddish pink color and a great perfume of cherry and berry fruit with a faint exotic nuance. It is supple and fruity with hints of watermelon and cherry with a faint floral undertone. Very tasty, this is a rosé with great early charm, but give it lots of air and then serve it very cold. You will be happy, happy – Highly Recommended Plus. $10 Best Buy Imported by Hand Picked Selections, Warrenton, PA
Les Rocailles-Pierre Boniface
Pierre Boniface wines are produced at Les Rocailles which is located in the French Alps appellation of Savoie. Today the business is run by Guillaume Durand and Alban Thouroude with Pierre acting as a consultant. The estate consists of 50 acres of vineyards and grapes are purchased from another 60 acres.
2011 Les Rocailles-Pierre Boniface Gamay Rosé Vin de Savoie.
First tasted last year the 2010 was very impressive and so it is again in 2011. It is a “light” wine with “only” 12% alcohol, but it is so tasty. The color is pale reddish pink with a lovely perfume with faint hints of strawberry and citrus with a very faint floral undertone. The wine is balanced with lovely fruit and has subtle flavors hinting of raspberry and cherry with floral citrus nuances. This is a fantastic “light” wine that is pure enjoyment – Outstanding. $17.50 Best Buy Imported by Hand Picked Selections, Warrenton, PA
Tavel is an appellation within the Rhone Valley dedicated to making only rosé. It is the only appellation in France that is dedicated solely to rosé. The rosés from here are some of the most intensely fruity of all French rosés and are capable of aging for some time. The primary grapes used are Grenache and Cinsault along with Syrah, Mouvèdre, Bourboulenc, Clairette, and Picpoul. The Tavel appellation covers some 2,000 acres as defined by law in 1936. Today in Tavel, tradition has been maintained in the sense that the wines continue to be balanced and elegant without being heavy or overly alcoholic. Unfortunately, the latter is a description now too often applied to many of the red rhone wines that have joined the big numbers brigade and have lost their sense of elegance and balance. This is particularly the case in Chateauneuf du Pape which is in the same southern area of the Rhone Valley as Tavel. But, thankfully, Tavel has stayed true to its style and continues to represent one of the greatest areas for rosé wines in the world.
This property has a long history. In 1595, a portion of what is now Tavel was transferred from the monks of the Abbey of Villeneuve-les-Avignon to Louis Joseph d’Aquéria. Vines were planted and a residence was built in the early 1600s when the area assumed the name Aquéria. Over the next two hundred years the vineyard was sold and subdivided many times. At the beginning of the 18th century the present château was constructed and sometime shortly thereafter the wines assumed the name Aquéria. In 1920 the property was purchased by Jean Oliver. He began to purchase the original properties around the chateau. Today Chateau d’Aquéria is one of 45 estates in Tavel, but one of only 4 where the vines are contiguous. It is also the largest with 244 total acres. Some 120 acres are devoted to Tavel and the annual production is near 25,000 cases. Chateau d’Aquéria is currently owned by the son of Jean Oliver, Paul de Bez, and his sons Vincent and Bruno.
Some 65% of the production is sold in France and the balance goes primarily to Japan, Germany, and the United States. Since 1944 Chateau d’Aquéria has been represented in the United States by the Kobrand Corporation.
Although I must confess that my memory might be a little fuzzy (after all I have been around for as long as Kobrand has been importing this wine), Chateau d’Aquéria may have been the first dry rosé that I ever tasted. And, that was many, many years ago. In the intensely fruit style it is consistently very fine and a very good value.
2011 Chateau d’Aquéria Tavel.
This is a larger scaled rosé. And, while the intention might be just to quaff it down, this is a mistake. I tasted this wine over the course of 4 days. At first it was a bit heavy (the stated alcohol of 14% was the highest of any rosé taste here) and rather restrained, but in a day or two it opened and showed a beautiful fruit and a more intense perfume. Then I got the wine really cold (think out of the refrigerator and into the freezer for ½ hour). Bingo, the wine was transformed. It was crisper, fresher, fruitier, and matched even better with my light spring/summer foods. So don’t be afraid to get this wine really cold. In fact, even with ice crystals! I think you will be very pleased with the results.
Light red in color with a golden edge this wine has a gorgeous perfume that evolves over time to reveal cherry fruit accented by a floral undertone. The wine is brimming with fruit that is very pure, supple and tasty. Not complex, but just pure enjoyment. Don’t get carried away here, enjoy this rosé for the fruit. And, if you happen to keep it in a cool cellar for a few years, expect to enjoy continued pleasure. Oh yes, the price makes this something that is easy to do – Outstanding. $13.99 Best Buy Imported by the Kobrand Corporation, New York, NY